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GU Race Energy — My fuel of choice this season…

I thought I’d wait until the end of the season to review GU energy gels and GU Brew- which I was so fortunate to receive this year from Running Free in the team lottery.I raced in all distances this year with the exception of full-iron distance- which I believe in the past, I have declared, is not for ordinary mortals… If others tend to disagree, we can carry that discussion on elsewhere.  

But this post is about GU race energy: specifically GU Brew, and GU Energy Gels.In short, I enjoyed racing (and sometimes training) with both products this season.  And now I will tell you why…

Reason number one: Sustained energy.

Take a look at the nutrition label on a GU energy gel- or the side of a canister of GU drink formula.  One of the first things you should notice, is the sugars-to-complex carbohydrate ratio.  With 25 grams of carbohydrates in  a GU gel- and only 5 grams coming from sugar, one can assume that the remaining fuel available is made up of the starchy carbohydrates that one’s body demands during extended bouts of physical exertion at aerobic and near-anaerobic levels.

The simple explanation: We cannot and should not rely solely on sugars to refuel during training or competition- especially in the cases of longer events that may last upwards of several hours or more.

The scientific explanation: when most of us race, our bodies are using an energy system known as glycolsis- which operates in both aerobic and anaerobic capacities.  In either instance, carbohydrates are a primary energy substrate (fats can contribute as a partial fuel source during aerobic/slow glycolsis as well).  Carbohydrates are burned in the form of blood glucose and muscle glycogen as our bodies perform work through this energy system- but in order for sustained energy requirements to be meant, we cannot rely on the metabolism of simple sugars alone.  Although a this is a faster process, it is not sustainable- as sugars are utilized far too quickly.

Reason number two: Caffeine dose

GU probably says it best on their own website.  “We add caffeine for two reasons: it acts as a stimulant, and it reduces perceived effort.”GU energy gels offer up flavours with zero caffeine, regular doses of caffeine, double-doses, and I do believe there are even a few products with a triple-dose now.  It is important to remember that using caffeine to train and race is like using an energy credit card.  It will allow you to borrow some energy from later, just like any other stimulant- but you need to pay it back at some point!

Reason number three: Taste

Surprisingly, I was able to stick to the same GU energy gel flavour for all races this year, and even during the longer events, I didn’t seem to mind breaking open another gel and taking it in.  This is good news- as I’m sure most readers would agree with me, it’s not exactly easy to find something that meets all of your energy criteria, and also doesn’t taste too bad after 4+ hours of racing.

So… If you are wondering about a “bonk” you might have had this year during a particular race or event (especially a longer one), it might be time to re-evaluate your nurtrition strategy. Most athletes will blame hitting the wall on the fact that they simply ran too high of a calorie deficit… However, there might be more to it than that. The amount of energy you are taking in is just as important as where it is coming from!

Happy training.


I’m 26 years old. I have a beautiful girlfriend who doesn’t mind coming out to long races in the extreme heat or pouring rain, and splitting the grocery bill with me and my 4000 calorie / day vegan diet. I’m a triathlete from the ankles up. I started out as a very biomechanically inefficient runner… the worst you’ve ever seen, I guarantee. I’ve somehow managed to drag my pancake-flat feet through marathons, triathlons, and even a 400 kilometre 10-day charity fundraiser run. Shifting the focus away from running though, and training as a triathlete has helped to keep me injury free for the last 3 years. It’s even made me a little faster on my feet. Aside from swimming, cycling and running, I like travel, yoga, and surfing. In 2006, my girlfriend and I lived in Japan and went surfing every week… unfortunately, there is no surfing in Markham.

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One comment

  • Well written! As much a training article as it is a gear review. More needs to be written on this very important topic.

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